Soccer

Carlos Vela’s MVP-caliber play continues in LAFC’s win over FC Dallas

The chant began late in the first half.

“MVP! MVP! MVP!”

It was meant as an encore to the Carlos Vela goal that put LAFC ahead to stay Thursday in its 2-0 win over FC Dallas, a sign of both appreciation and tribute from the sellout crowd of 22,001 at Banc of California Stadium. And though the Major League Soccer season is still a month shy of the halfway point, the chant is already beginning to sound more like recognition of an obvious truth than a hopeful plea.

“MVP! MVP! MVP!”

The goal was Vela’s 13th of the season, leaving him will ahead of pace to break Josef Martinez’s single-season record of 31. No other player has reached double digits yet. The LAFC captain also picked up his seventh assist of the season on Diego Rossi’s second-half goal, tying him for the league lead in that category and giving him a hand in 20 of his team’s 31 goals.

And he could have had more. Another three of his game-high eight shots came within inches of going in, including a soft left-footed shot in the final minutes that rolled just wide of the far post.

MLS has given out two player of the month awards this season; Vela got both, becoming just the seventh player in league history to win the honor in consecutive months.

“MVP! MVP! MVP!”

Vela has made no secret of the fact that’s the individual award he really wants, which figured in his decision to turn down a call-up from the Mexican national team this week.

“We are in a really good run. but we can’t feel that we know everything and there is nothing to get better at,” he said in Spanish. “The season is long and we need to work game by game and improve every day to keep this rhythm. We all know the important part of the season is at the end and during the playoffs but we are doing good things right now.”

Another player already producing good things is goalkeeper Tyler Miller, although he was mainly a spectator Thursday. Miller got a lot of help from his defense, especially in the second half, and didn’t need to make a save to record his sixth shutout of the season and third in as many games, extending his scoreless streak to 359 minutes, longest in the league this year.

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In his last three games, Miller has made just two saves.

Miller spent most of the first half by himself as LAFC (9-1-3) kept the visitors on their heels, out-shooting Dallas 14-0 en route to a season-high 27 shots. Most of those ended in frustration, though, with Vela putting a free kick off the crossbar and another try off the post. Midfielders Mark-Anthony Kaye and Latif Blessing also had narrow misses with a Kaye shot getting deflected just wide of the post and Blessing sending a shot from close range over the goal.

A ball finally got into the net in the 39th minute with Vela, given far too much space in the box, settling a low feed from Eduard Atuesta with his right foot, then using his left one to blast a shot just inside the far post.

“He’s playing great,” said LAFC coach Bob Bradley, who rushed the field after the game to protest a late, dangerous challenge that left Vela lucky to escape injury.

“His mentality for every game, his willingness to take the ball, try to create, get chances, score goals. In right moments, he’s unselfish. He sets the standard and I think everybody sees it.”

Dallas (5-5-2) tried to make a game of it after the intermission, taking its first three shots of the game in opening 15 minutes of the second half. But none of them got through to Miller, leaving it to Rossi to end whatever drama remained in the 83rd minute.